NEW YORK – The New York Mets traded slumping first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night, parting ways with a power hitter who proved to be too inconsistent at the plate.
Pittsburgh sent minor league right-hander Zack Thornton and a player to be named to New York for the 27-year-old Davis.
The Mets announced the deal just minutes before they played Atlanta. Davis was on the field during batting practice earlier in the day.
The Pirates had searched all winter for a first baseman, without success in the trade and free-agent markets.
“Ultimately, we found the right fit,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
“Hopefully this is a move that solves our first base needs for years to come,” he said.
The lefty-swinging Davis hit 32 homers for the Mets in 2012, but fell off sharply last year.
“Obviously, I didn’t play as well as I should have,” he said.
Davis was hitting .208 with one home run and five RBIs in 24 at-bats. He lost his starting job to Lucas Duda and was relegated to a part-time role with the Mets, who also have Josh Satin at first base.
“You can’t play a major league season with three first basemen, so one of us had to go,” Davis said outside the Mets’ clubhouse after the game started.
“Obviously it’s an emotional time, but we aren’t there bawling our eyes out,” he said.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said the team decided several months ago to trade Davis.
“We are happy for Ike and it was a situation we needed to resolve,” Alderson said.
“I would not say that we lost patience with Ike. At some point you have to make a decision about players on the roster, so we simply had to make a choice.”
The Mets filled Davis’ roster spot by activating outfielder Chris Young from the 15-day disabled list. He started in center field.
“Happy to be back,” Young said before the game. “Seems like it’s been forever, for some reason.”
Young had been out with an injured right quadriceps. He played one inning in the field for the Mets during the opening week and was pulled before he came to bat.
Davis, the son of former big league pitcher Ron Davis, was a promising prospect when he hit 19 homers with 71 RBIs while batting .264 as a rookie in 2010. He got off to a strong start the following year, hitting .302 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 36 games, but missed most of the season with an ankle injury.
Still, he seemed primed for a fine career.
Davis’ power numbers peaked in 2012 – he was tied for fifth in the NL homer race – even while he hit just .227. But he got off to a second consecutive miserable start last year and was demoted to the minors for nearly a month. He batted .205 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs, missing the final month with a side strain.
“Obviously, it’s a little weird. I’ve been with the Mets for a long time. I’ve got really good friends here,” Davis said. “I’ve had a blast in New York. It’s where I made my childhood dreams come true.”
As for joining the Pirates a year after they ended a long playoff drought, “in different scenery it will be better,” Davis said.
Since no cash was involved, the Mets save $3,117,486 of Davis’ $3.5 million salary.
The Pirates didn’t bring back first baseman Garrett Jones after the season and went searching for a lefty-hitting complement to Gaby Sanchez. But no major moves developed and the Pirates went into spring training with only prospect Andrew Lambo and non-roster invitee Travis Ishikawa at the position.
Lambo didn’t hit much in exhibition play and Ishikawa got off to a quick start during the regular season before dipping. Manager Clint Hurdle has reverted back to playing Sanchez – a player who has drastic right/left splits – against righties.
“Ike’s done a really nice job against right-handed pitchers in his career. He’s had two big seasons and two injury-plagued seasons and we’re betting that our guys can get him back on the right track. We’re betting that he was a better fit in this ballpark than he was in what used to be spacious Citi Field,” Huntington said.
Young went 8 for 12 with two homers in a three-game rehabilitation stint at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Young hit 27 homers with 91 RBIs and 28 steals for Arizona in 2010. He hasn’t been able to duplicate those numbers since then.
The 25-year-old Thornton was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in four relief appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis. He will report to Las Vegas.